At the start of “Game Day,” Stringer describes Omar as a modern Robin Hood who steals from the rich dealers and gives to the poor fiends. By the end of the episode, however, Omar proves to align with a very different character type. When he strolls into Prop Joe’s shop bearing a bag of Avon’s heroin as an offering, he tells Joe “we free.” Suddenly, this seemingly-noble folk hero is stealing from the rich and giving to the rich. Not exactly the socialist equalizer he is made out to be.
“Game Day,” The Wire’s ninth episode, begins with a short series of quick shots of a basketball scrimmage. It is the second time this season that the cameras have taken us inside a gym to watch basketball practice, but there are some big differences this time. The first scene was less of a practice than a strategy session, with Avon holding court (literally and metaphorically) and setting a bounty on Omar and his crew. In that scene, the basketball is more of a pretense, an excuse for Avon to meet with his inner circle in a private setting. Nobody plays defence, no picks are set. Avon is the only one who shoots the ball.
Avon: So what you think, homes?
Stringer: I’m thinking this is the worst part of the game here, man. Best we do is break out even, right?
Stringer: I’m saying, this shit got personal. Ain’t nothing else to it.
Avon: So you talking about letting it slide.
Stringer: For a time, maybe.
If the scene where Avon and Barksdale promote Stinkum illustrates how seamlessly the partners work together, the shocking murder of that same newly-minted executive provides the first hint of the possibility of a rift between the two. Avon’s response to the news is instantaneous and fierce. He gathers all of his muscle into the office at Orlando’s (interestingly, D’Angelo is not at this meeting, and he doesn’t learn of Stinkum’s death until the next day) and diverts all of his into the hunt for Omar.
Teacher: Some key factors that affect the elasticity of demand are what? Mr. Bell.
Stringer: Desire, consumer need.
Teacher: Right, specifically the ability of a consumer to delay acquisition. What else?
First, McNulty almost loses his sons in his reckless pursuit of Stringer Bell. Then he tracks down the owner linked to the licence plate information they retrieved. Then he spends several days on a freelance stakeout. After all of this, McNulty ends up outside of a Macroeconomics class at Baltimore City Community College.
Now that Omar’s crew has been torn apart by the vengeful Barksdales, the title of most feared stickup crew in the Westside falls to Bubbles’ ragtag group of fiends. It’s a long fall. Instead of Omar, Brandon and Bailey, we now have Bubbles, Johnny, and a third fiend with the onomatopoetic name of Uck. Instead of shotguns, their weapons are a shopping cart and a colostomy bag. Instead of making off with multiple G-packs, they are happy to net a few vials. But as low-bottom as this crew is, it does have two things in common with Omar’s: they rely on a plan, and they reveal the constant flow of product and manpower that moves in and out of the street.
For much of the first half of Season 1, the Barksdale crew is busy dodging police raids and fighting threats to their reputation like snitches and stickup artists. But the Barksdale crew is also a business, and as Dr. Suess says in The Lorax, “business is business, and business must grow!”
The police are a drug kingpin’s primary natural enemy. They are the ones who are most likely to topple his empire, putting him away for decades or even life. The Wire supports this notion by focusing on Daniels’ detail and their attempt to take down the Barksdale crew. But after the introduction of Omar’s small, tightly-formed three-man crew in “The Buys,” the Barksdales are forced to fight on a second front, one that exists on their own side of the legal divide.
“This shit right here, Dee, it’s forever.” Stringer
We get our first look at the Barksdale office in Orlando’s through the eyes of D’Angelo, who comes bearing a brown paper bag filled with a day’s worth of drug sales from the Pit. He walks up a flight of neon-lit stairs (where Stinkum stands guard and calls “Dee coming up”) and passes through the strippers’ dressing room into the heart of the Barksdale crew’s operations.
“What, the customer is always right?”—Bodie
The Pit is the nucleus in the atomic structure of The Wire’s first season. It is the world around which all other worlds revolve: the junkies come here to cop, the cops come here to take that first step up the investigative ladder, and the crew bosses come here to oversee their domain. Most importantly, the four central members of the Pit crew–conflicted leader D’Angelo, Bodie the “smart-ass pawn,” childlike Wallace and sex-crazed Poot–serve as the Greek chorus, commenting on the events that swirl around them. In the middle of the the low-rise courtyard, they sit on milk crates, utility boxes, and that immortal orange couch and debate the ethics and hierarchy of the drug game. These are some of the funniest and smartest scenes in Season One, most notably the chicken nugget scene from Episode Two and the chess scene that comes later on in Episode Three. So it is appropriate that the one opening scene with all four of the Pit Boys serves to highlight the connectivity of The Wire’s many worlds.
“Just some sadass down in the basement…”—D’Angelo
While McNulty is busy digging himself deeper into the case by stoking Judge Phelan’s interest in the Barksdales, the other members of the ragtag newly-formed detail move into their new home, and it’s not pretty. With Daniels in the lead, Kima, Carver, Herc and Santangelo follow like a row of ducklings. He opens the door that leads to a basement. We see a low angle shot, looking up a darkened stairway at a group of peons whose relocation to this murky subterranean world should remind Office Space fans of squirrely Milton’s slow stuttering descent into Storage B.